When an quake hits, there’s no warning. Our last “big one” in Northern California was the Loma Prieta Earthquake of October 17, 1989 at 5:04pm. Most Bay Area residents remember it as the one that happened just before the World Series was to begin – the “battle of the Bay” as it was the San Francisco Giants vs the Oakland As.
But for me, that event was marked in time for real estate reasons. We were buying our first house, a little ranch style home in the Cambrian area of San Jose. In fact, we were so close to closing escrow that we had done our final walk through at 3pm that day. Everything had been fine. And, as it later turned out, the house did just fine through the shaking. The sellers had moved out, so it was empty and on top of no structural damage, there was no broken glass anywhere, thankfully.
But it did stop our escrow cold. The lender, understandably, was nervous about funding the loan. So we had to have the home re-inspected to assure everyone that the house had no significant damage. Fair enough.
Meanwhile, we had been living in Santa Cruz, in a lovely townhouse we rented overlooking scenic Neary’s Lagoon – which I believe is either on landfill or is on sandy soil that doesn’t tolerate seismic activity too well. Our home there was a wreck with a lot of things moved around, even heavy object had relocated (like the fridge, which moved several feet).
Worst for cleanup was the kitchen, where food in the pantry, mostly in glass jars then, had been dumped onto the floor. Worst for heartbreak was our dining area. The tall hutch likewise collapsed onto the floor, crushing its contents, and many beautiful wedding gifts were turned into chips of crystal, Beleek, glass etc.
We have learned to secure tall furniture with straps and to choose plastic over glass containers. Water heaters must now be strapped and braced so they don’t fall – we saw homes destroyed by fire without that measure just a block from where we’d been living. Most of us know to keep water on hand, as well as spare food, cash (because in the event of a disaster, electricity may be down and cash registers and ATM machines inoperable).
After the horrific disasters in Japan last week – the earthquake, tsunami and then the nuclear reactor crisis – it’s good to reevaluate our preparation. The last quake was 6.9. How would we do with a 9.0? You can’t be too careful or too prepared.
Please print out the Sereno Earthquake Preparedness Kit Checklist (pdf via link or image above) and get started today. You never know when it may be needed.